Event Photography – Why Do People Buy Your Images?

If you want to know how you can improve your sales you need to understand why people buy and when. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology, proposed by Abraham Maslow in 1943 and breaks down our requirements into a pyramid with our most basic needs at the bottom of which are physiological needs, these are the obvious requirements for human survival such as Breathing and Food, so no requirement for photographs.

The second layer, Safety needs deals with such aspects as Personal Security, Financial Security and Health and Well-Being, so it could be argued that expensive portrait purchases at a high street photographer would be a threat at this level. Layer 3 is Social needs and deals with Friendship, Intimacy and Family and deals in part with belonging, a need to identify who we are. People like to be part of a group and have an identity and photographs can help to reinforce those identities.

The fourth layer is Esteem and takes the ideas of belongingness a step further because everybody wants to have recognition via their activities that make them feel accepted i.e. everybody wants their 15 minutes of fame or just the respect of their peers. At this level people buy photographs because they want to show who they are and what they can do.

The pinnacle is Self-actualization and as with all stages you must have achieved the lower stages to get here. Self-actualization which is the personal need to be the best at what you want to do such as the best photographer or best forum moderator. At this level people buy your photographs because the photographs are the best that they can buy.

So after the Psycho babble where exactly are we? The reality is that given the choice between Food & Drink or purchasing a photograph, the photograph comes second. At an event we deliberately reduced the price to £8 which allowed any child that had been given a £10 note to buy their photograph and a can of coke etc. which allows them to fulfil layer 1 and hence layer 3.

A purchase at an event covers many layers, Layer 3 to be part of the group, Layer 4 to show how good they were to others. It is only when Layers 1 & 2 are in place that people will consider buying. Shelter is one of the most basic needs so if the weather is bad people will leave early, or they may end up in your sales tent but you can guarantee lower sales.

There is also the use of emotions.

Guilt comes into play – if some children have been bought photographs it makes parents guilty that their children do not also have photographs – you do not need to work on this emotion as there have always been the haves and the have nots – you will often hear we will take a card and look on-line – if you cant get them to buy then and there your chance of them buying afterwards will probably be in the region of 10-20% – again think of the way that venture sell.

Greed, why do many businesses use the idea of buy 2 get one free? It is because people are greedy to get the free one and often they think that they are the ones gaining but if I sell at X and my costs are Y it is far better to make 2X-3Y than it is to make X-Y from a customer.

Vanity, make the customer feel good, tell how fantastic they look in the images, all my customers have the best looking horse or best looking child. At social events it is the photographer that starts the sales patter to put people in the mood to buy, leaving the sales people to close the deal and not having to initiate it.

There are further things that come into play such as gullibility or stupidity – £9.99 sounds a lot less than £10 but is only 0.1% less – they are essentially the same price but this meets with another idea that people like some change from a note or that they do not like to have to hand over a note and change – potentially sales will decrease so much by selling at £11 each instead of £10 each that you would have made more profit at £8 each.

So you know that the conditions and the price have to be right so what is the major factor that stops people buying when the product is good? It is the ability to pay – if people do not know that you are going to be there and that they are going to want your product they will not come armed with the ready cash, they will have budgeted for food, travel costs etc. but not for you so the addition of such things as wireless chip and pin terminals allows the impulse buy.

The situation is very different if it is the customer that has approached a studio because then they will have known in advance what they are doing but again they are limited by what they can pay so the opportunity to buy via credit or installments means that they can buy what they want and not what they can afford or need. As was once explained to me, the man in the Range Rover can afford it but the man in the Mondeo aspires to it (possibly appealing to layer 4) so give him the opportunity to buy it as well.

If you want to know about sales techniques just look at what supermarkets do, they pipe the smell of fresh bread around the store, they change the lighting in different areas to make the produce look better, they put special offers on row ends to make you go up and down the rows, they put special offers at the front door. Premium brands are at eye level whereas budget (where they don’t make as much money) are set much lower or higher.

Business to business is very similar with only one difference, they will use rolling or continuous discounts i.e. buy 3 or more and the price is lower for each one – it is proven that buy 2 get 1 free means most people will only buy 3 and they want you to buy what you want. How do you know if the price is right? There will always be moaners but a proven trick is to put the price up to a point that more people start to moan i.e. past the background level and then you will have found what is right for your market.

Have something that is just so expensive that people are unlikely to buy – if they do it is a bonus (some just have to show off what they can afford, and hopefully that will attract others) but it also makes your other products look better value for money. If customers continually tell you that you are cheap or good value it is probably time to reassess. Offers/discounts/deals will always attract people but you need to give them something they want and the opportunity to buy it.

I Hired a Professional Photographer – Now What?

When I started wedding photography, about 15 years ago, I really didn’t know what I was getting into. I really didn’t charge much for all of the work I put into it, film and processing was expensive, and it was a real time consumer. Really, as many aspiring photographers, I was just happy to be working. New, inexperienced photographers often find that they are ‘watched over’ by clients more than when they become more established, as couples tend to trust more experienced photographers with their day.

So, assuming that you have hired a seasoned pro- how much should you expect from them, and how much should you watch over what they are shooting? From being in the business for many years- and having worked with all sorts of couples, here is my strategy for getting the most out of your professional photographer- and in turn, the best photography possible.

Let’s break this up into 3 sections- pre-wedding, the wedding day, and post wedding.

Pre-Wedding:

Read over the price list in detail, and ask…ask…ask so you know what you are getting into. This is critical to make sure that what you want is offered, and at what price. Do you want the full resolution images? Do you want full coverage? What about albums? I have seen some photographers charge little for the day- and then charge thousands for the images and/or albums. Know what you are getting into.

Plan the timeline for the wedding day in detail including driving time. This really helps me when I photograph weddings so I can help keep the couple on time. Nothing worse than being told halfway through my session that “we have to go now”- before I have what the couple and I discussed. The photographer should be willing and able to help you with the itinerary of the day- use their experience! If the photographer wants 2 hours with you and the party, family etc- give them the time. Guests expect to have a break while this is done so do not sell yourselves short on photography time.

The style of photography should also be discussed. Sure I have a certain way of doing things- but this does vary depending on what I think the couple wants. Just because you see photos you like in the photographer’s portfolio does not mean he/she does that every wedding- let them know what your likes and dislikes are!

Wedding Day:

Number one advice- keep smiling! I cannot remember a wedding where absolutely everything went according to plan- there are just too many variables! When I see brides get ‘hung-up’ on small things like ‘the hall has the wrong center pieces” it can really kill the wedding shoot. The best images come from couples who brush off the problems of the day and roll with the issues. (You can always deal with the problems of vendors after- do not let it spoil your wedding. This can really cramp any flow to the photo session- the worry and anger on couples faces really comes through in the photos. I tell my brides “go into the day knowing that you did all you can- and once it starts just enjoy the ride!” Positive attitude plays such an important role for your wedding day.

Do not spend ‘all day’ on the family photos. Don’t get me wrong- I do take plenty of family photos- but the number of times I have couples asking for every combination of family photos to be taken, with every mathematical variable of relatives possible, until everybody is photo exhausted before the couple and party photos have even started! Parents, immediate family, large extended family- keep it simple!

Be willing to try what the photographer asks. Sometimes what I have wedding parties or couples do does not feel ‘natural’, but then it shouldn’t! What is common about being at a photo location dressed up in expensive clothing for 90 minutes! Many unnatural actions are to bring out the expressions that we need to get the shots we wanted- so roll with it and you may be surprised what the results are. For example, if the bride and ladies are not giving me the fun expressions that I may want, I may ask them to drop their flowers, and run across a field holding hands- then stop and move in close together. This can be a great way of getting laughter and great expressions out of the bridal party. The worst thing you as a couple can say to your photographer is “this is stupid- can you take some fun photos and make us laugh?”. That is usually when the crickets come out and the fun of the photo shoot shuts down for good.

Post Wedding:

Once the images have been taken, work closely with your photographer to get the images, albums etc. So much can be done with photography after the images are back in the studio- but this can also be a curse. Try to narrow down a theme or a certain style that you are looking for in your photographs, that is the way that they are presented. Even great photos will look poor if they are laid out or over edited with special effects etc. Do not try to ‘get it all’ with your album- be consistent for a cleaner looking album. Just as in successful advertising, a strong clean message usually delivers better results than a ‘mish-mash’ of ideas.

If you would like more advice on wedding photography- feel free to contact me. I only book one wedding per day, so if you are interested lets book a relaxing, no pressure meeting to go over what you want in your wedding photography. Remember, have fun- it’s your day so enjoy it.

Photographing Children: Tips for Parents and Professionals

Photographing children may be more challenging than you at first realise! When photographing younger children you must be aware of ensuring that they feel comfortable and safe. If they are your children then of course this is not a problem but it can cause some difficulty if you are photographing a friends child.

A child will pick up on our discomfort much easier than another adult so if you do not enjoy children’s company then you may want to think again before you embark on this area of digital photography.

Top 5 tips for photographing children:

1. Just because you are ready to take the child’s photograph does not mean they are ready and willing! You may have to ‘trick’ them into thinking it is a fun game for them to play. Have some props to hand such as bubble blowing or soft toys. Often toys with some sort of movement or noise are the most useful as they will emote a reaction from the child which you can capture if you are quick enough!

2. Ensure you are comfortable with the settings on your camera. This may seem obvious but if you suddenly stop when the child is happy to play to sort out a setting on your camera you will lose the moment, perhaps for ever. So make sure you have set your camera up for the session and are happy to adapt if and when necessary. Initially you may just use the environment you are in to photograph children but as you become more advanced you may wish to provide a lighting setup. This could consist of three light setup – consisting of a main light fill light and a background light. If you are using a backdrop keep the child at least four feet from the backdrop if possible as this eliminates shadows and prevents the backdrop from competing with your subject.

3. if you are photographing a friends or clients child ask the parent what sort of things their child will respond to. You may only have a short period in which to photograph the child so all information will be vital to the success of the session. Provide some props for the child to explore, such as a box or some dressing up clothes

4. Remember children have a short attention span so you may have to break off for short periods for the child to be re positioned or placated with a favourite toy or cuddle from a parent. At all times you must remain relaxed or the child and the parent will begin to feel uncomfortable. This will not provide the best atmosphere for successful photography!

5. Try to use your camera as an extension of yourself rather than placing it formally onto a tripod. If you are willing to roll around on the floor making stupid noises and giggling your subjects may be more relaxed and provide you with fantastic shots. You could move outdoors to photograph the child such as the beach or play park. There is no other field of photography where you will witness so many moods, facial expressions and movement than when photographing young children.

The most important things to remember when photographing children is to be relaxed at all times, don’t be phased by their capricious nature, allow them time, space and even toys to play with and always most importantly be comfortable with your camera because if you are not the whole session will be very stressful for you and the child.